With Each Empty Glass, A Romance Fanned…

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restaurant table

A man and a woman walk into a b… no, not a bar… a busy restaurant.

Dressed nicely, smelling lightly delicious like apple blossoms and musk, they’ve prepared themselves for an evening full of promise, of hopeful enjoyment.

Let’s let the evening begin.

When, in my summer seasonal job as a bartender in a local Greek restaurant I pour a glass of Pinot Gris, a shot of Ouzo, or mix up a chilly Pineapple-Coconut Mojito, I feel an inner joy, a sense of accomplishment. A halo of sunshine, a curve of multi-hued rainbow arches over me like a good friend’s hug.

Isn’t life simple sometimes when that’s all it takes to bake a good sensation inside?

I’m not the world’s greatest bartender (yet!), but I’m learning and improving my craft with each shift I work.

And sometimes, even more enjoyable than pouring drinks is the opportunity for people watching.

Bartending is almost like sitting in an airport lounge waiting for your flight and gazing around at all the interesting faces, the multitude of individual stories scattered across a night sky like glittering constellations.

As the hours pass by, my feet grow fatigued and sore but I smile, watching the clock’s evolutionary force as the clock ticks the minutes past and fuzzy alcoholic chemicals begin dancing waltzes inside peoples’ heads.

Just as music enchants the brain, so too can alcohol.

The young man and woman are huddled, just to my left, at a small table in the corner, next to large glass doors abutting the enclosed outdoor patio filled with luscious clay-potted plants overflowing with aromatic mint and basil.

She nervously fiddles with the little gold ring on her thumb while waiting for a Caesar and the Dirty Martini that I’m preparing for them; his hands stay formally perched on his lap.

Before the beverages arrive at their table, he sneaks little peeks her way, reservedly drinking in her pretty face. Her softly tanned legs, bare from mid-thigh downwards, rest comfortably crossed behind the leg of her chair.


Glancing somewhat shyly at each other across the white linen-topped table – she poised slightly back in her seat, him vaguely leaning forward – they work to build a conversation.

Though there is no physical contact – none – there is a hint, maybe just a whiff, of comfort in the air that suggests to me a previous encounter, perhaps a second date signal of encouragement.

Bear with me, it’s my blog writer’s game to play detective and sniff out the back story. I should have worn my camouflage lampshade hat from a bad party years ago.

I’m able to snoop and catch a profile glimpse of them every few minutes while I pop caps off Budweisers and Coronas and notice the subtle shifts in amorosity as she sips at her vodka-laced Caesar, and a gin injection settles over him like a warm fog cloud.

Looking about the crowded restaurant, surveying the cosmos as patrons sip their fermented Cosmos, it comes as no surprise that stories on people’s faces change as the sun slinks away behind the Okanagan Valley hills and the warm glow of candlelight gently suffuses their features.

Though I’m not imbibing any of the alcoholic elixirs, I absorb the glow of warmth around me. My intoxication rises with the patrons’.

The couple’s meals are placed on the table and they both lean in with amiable smiles, absorbing the heady scent of the warm tomatoes, the spicy cinnamon, the feta and oregano wafting upwards, an immersion of sensuous scents.

Grinning, he lifts his glass towards her. Before forking a mouthful of dinner, they kiss the rims of their glasses in a quiet ting, sipping as an anticipatory glint of shimmer emerges in their eyes like a ray of moonlight reflecting dreamily on the lake.

What is it about an alcoholic drink that soothes and elevates an occasion? Why those familiar feelings of release and freedom that alcohol produces and why do we tend to think very little of our surrounds, yet discover great close focus on the object of our attention, or affection?

I know this liquid elixir I pour is a double-edged sword of pleasure/poison. But while I’m here mixing drinks I can only think on the positive spinoffs of light inebriation.

From the corner of my eye, I see the man nodding his head, yes, to his server to bring a second set of drinks.

Caesars and Martinis are simple concoctions for me to make.

I feel like a little kid free on the playground mixing up mud pies. I’m drawn to the blend of green lime and red clamato juice, olives speared in a sexy sloped martini glass.

After a nip of icy martini, he slips the final bite of chicken souvlaki left on his plate into his mouth, while her dish sits still half-filled with moussaka and tomatoes and cucumbers. Her fork gently massages the plate but rarely returns to her lips.

One hand of each is delicately interlaced with the other’s and I can see now that their legs are rubbed gently together beneath the table. A rhythmic nudge of her blue-painted toenail gently kneads the back of his calf.

While the light in the room has grown dimmer, I can see the sweet young lady’s apple cheeks are warm and rosy in a pre-coital flush. They lean forward across the table into the breathing zone of the other, talking in soft smiles and hushed tones.

A Day in the Park

I feel a rising stream of personal… embarrassment… as if I’m peering through a hole in the wall into an intimate boudoir painting just waiting for the drift of clothing like romantic snowflakes floating slowly to the ground.

A short while later they rise to leave.

The young man and woman walk slowly, arm in arm, out of the restaurant and… well… I won’t take you any further along this twilight road where the destination clearly seems to be set.

The evening’s promise appears near fulfillment.

With a touch of disappointment, this little voyeuristic story ends for me, and I return to the focus of MY evening, pouring drinks.

As my bartending shift ends, I feel my skill at making drinks for people to enjoy is getting better and stronger… I’m a better “drink chef” now than I was just a year ago.

Without the young couple’s knowing, I’ve filled my tiny role of bartender… and… love matchmaker… fairy godfather… a Fiddler on The Roof Yentl.

I feel good. That’s progress.



The Scent of Love Floating on Air…

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I want a little sugar in my bowl
I want a little sweetness down in my soul
I could stand some lovin’, oh so bad
I feel so funny, I feel so sad”
Nina Simone



A warm wafting garlic scent intermingled with fresh tomatoes, oregano and cumin hang-glides like a heavenly wispy cloud, drifting insistently through the walls and under doors into bedrooms beckoning lovers like a magnetic force, irresistible, trance-like.

There is a sensuous beauty in cooking a scrumptious meal. Cooking… at its best… is like making delicious love while standing.

Chicken Shawarma, Aji de Gallina, Lemon Risotto, Rogan Josh, Guinness Irish Stew, Lamb Tajine, Roasted Red Pepper Lentil Soup, Moros y Cristianos, BBQ Ribs, French Onion Soup… such sweet carnal names that call out so insistent and charming.

Cooking is Patrick Swayze with his arms cozily wrapped around Demi Moore (or vice versa in my personal dream), caressing wet, slippery clay in their hands together… absorbed in the flow of warm moisture, the sinewy ooze between interlocked fingers, the light texture of warm soothing breath on the back of the neck…

Preparing a meal is foreplay where the pleasure is in the process – the cinnamon smells, the coriander tastes, the soft melding of complementary spices and oils…

There’s the lovers’ experimentation of trying this and that, seeking out a variety fun-pack where slower or faster pacing of the preparation become critical components of the whole experience… the joy of new discoveries.

And finally the moment arrives, everything is laid out in anticipatory beauty, that moment where shared pleasure heightens as we sit together as a group or face-to-face, smiling, sipping deeply-tinted Cabernet Sauvignon, nipping at summery Pinot Gris, the swirling stream of conversation weaving with the flavourful blend of colour and texture on the plate, on the fork.

Messy, noisy sucking of succulent tender meat off the rib bone and the rich feel of it melting, coating the inside of our mouths, the tangy sweetness rising through our nose hitting all the pleasure centres in the brain.

All we need to complete this delicious metaphor is a taste of something chocolatey or some other sumptuously sweet “climax” to bring the whole erotically lustful event to a satisfying finish.

A truly happy ending. With hopefully no buns left in the oven afterwards.

Happy Ending.jpg

Cooking is like investing or really almost everything we might do in life… each year that passes makes us more experienced, more in tune with the magic that makes it work and what doesn’t.

Fine cooking improves in our personal aging almost like a well-cellared wine.

All of the experimentation, the trials, the errors, the frustrations. And finally the successes.

You want trial and error? How about the fried rice I made at the age of 11 for a family gathering. As a young culinary neophyte, I lacked the knowledge to cook the rice in liquid first before frying – yup… CRUNCHY!!  Big Oops!

But the frequent failures blend with the successes over time… the 80:20 ratio of failure:success which was unsettling and frustrating has now flipped to a debatably 80:20 ratio of success:failure.

When my kids visit now and vocally remind me about how I’m”cooking the garbage”, I’m pretty sure they’re saying it tongue-in-cheek. Or perhaps I’m just delusional…

The 10,000 hour rule of mastery plays its part, in cooking as in our other passions.

I’ve known a few really wonderful cooks in my life beginning way back with my Mom and her incredible deep-brown caramelized roast potatoes followed by delicious flaky-crusted Northern Spy apple pies at our family Sunday night dinners.

My sister-in-law Lois was a superb cook with an amazing arsenal of ethnic food dishes learned while living in countries like Malaysia, India, Egypt and Nigeria.

My good friend Denise who, despite growing up in a British family (Brits can’t cook, can they?!), has developed a wonderful and richly-deserved reputation as a cook extraordinaire.

In the past year or two I’ve worked alongside a few other creative, skillful chefs in the Greek Restaurant where I bartend occasionally; also, even surprisingly in the soup kitchen where I do some volunteer work. I’ve discovered that great cooking doesn’t only waft in the air of kitchens in high-end spots. Passion for cooking can flow from any kitchen, any locale.

The best I can do is to watch and learn from all of those who take pride and delight in their cooking. And then mostly, I learn from cooking.

Again and again. Try this. Try that.

This flavour combination is marvellous. Oh, that one really sucks! How could I have never used fenugreek before?

I’m pretty lucky to live in a time where I have access to an amazing assortment of food ingredients. Ideas for recipes and flavour delights surround and hug me like wonderful foamy bubbles in a large bathtub.

I can prepare meals today that my parents and grandparents would never have dreamed of in their lives. Meat and potatoes are my heritage but not a major part of my current reality.

Cooking is an act of love we share with our friends, our families, our lovers.

That love may be fraternal or familial, but sometimes… when we want that sweetness down in our soul, the scents and flavours spin and whirl and twist in the spicy evening air in erotically, sensuously charged pleasures.

food sex